The Port-au-Prince earthquake has faded from the headlines, and Haitian relief is not quite the cause of the day it was a few weeks ago. Hollywood has finished its fundraisers and gone back to giving each other awards, and the pundits and bloggers have returned to debating healthcare. But the work in Haiti is just beginning. Much of our focus during those first six weeks after the earthquake struck was on emergency survival and meeting basic needs. Now we are transitioning into longer-term solutions and meeting needs in more sustainable ways. Here are a few of the areas we are concentrating on right now.
Helping Haitian families rebuild their homes. God has already provided a great deal, through your generosity, toward earthquake relief. Much of that money has been used to provide food and water and to meet other immediate needs following the earthquake. But much will also be used for the rebuilding of homes.
Our approach will be similar to the one we used after hurricanes of 2008 destroyed many homes where we minister. We will help families with plans for simple, adequate houses. Then we will provide financing to purchase materials as the Haitians supply the labor. This will be done incrementally – as families complete one stage of construction, we will make the finances available for the next stage. Our Haitian construction manager, or other Haitian partners in ministry, will visit the construction sites regularly to provide support and direction. And when the homes near completion, we may bring in a short-term missions team to help install the metal roofing, as we did in 2008/9.
One of the challenges is selecting which families to help. According to the Haitian government, the earthquake left 1.2 million people homeless. If we limit our scope to Pastor Diogene’s church and some of the sister churches in Port-au-Prince, we are still faced with thousands – many more than we have resources to help right now. At times like these, when we are faced with heartbreaking decisions, we are grateful to God for providing us with godly Haitian partners, like Pastor Diogene, who have proven themselves faithful over and over. They are in the best position to make these decisions, and we trust them to make them.
Short-term family sponsorships. More than 100 of the neediest families that Pastor Diogene ministers to in Port-au-Prince have been sponsored for either $50 or $100/month (depending on the size of the family) for a period of six months. This “bridge” support will help the family to survive during the next several months while they put their lives back together after the earthquake and until they are able to support themselves again.
Each of these families has received their first sponsorship distribution now. And it has been a blessing to them. As with every Starfish Ministries sponsorship, all of the sponsorship money goes to support the child, or in this case, the family – nothing is held back for administration. So if you sponsor a family for $50/month, the family receives the entire $50. If $100, they receive $100.
Most of you who have sponsored families will have received information on the family you sponsor by now. Doug Jarvie just returned from Haiti with more biographies. For those who haven’t yet received that information, it is coming soon.
Pastor Diogene’s church has doubled in size! Over a two week period, as the church held evangelistic crusades in Port-au-Prince, 500 people responded to the gospel. And Pastor Diogene’s church went from fewer than 500 people to nearly 1000. Praise the Lord! This presents some challenging logistics, particularly with much of the church building destroyed and many in leadership still reeling from the earthquake.
Starfish Ministries plays a secondary, supporting role in the Church in Haiti, recognizing that God raises up local believers (like Pastor Diogene and his leadership team) to lead his Church. So we are standing ready to serve them as God provides them with direction.
These are just a few of the exciting areas God has called us to right now in Haiti. And we are so grateful to Him for the way He uses you through your faithful support to make it all possible.
Serving our Lord together,
Bernie, Sheryl & Philip Bovenkamp